Friday, February 27, 2009

Silver and Gardenias Part 2: Omens

It started over two weeks ago with a message from my niece. She said her mother wanted to talk to me about grandma, my Mom. I haven't spoken to my older sister in a few years. We sort of had a falling out. Come to think of it, she isn't the only sibling I've ceased all contact with. I'm not too good with confrontation when it comes to my family.

Actually, that's not really true. I have no problem confronting my family, except I have this temper. Well, we all kind of have it, a family trait, I suppose. But I learned a long time ago that yelling and breaking things don't make things better; they only make things worse and hurt so much more. Some words spoken in anger are the words you can't take back, ever. So, rather than engaging in a bitter war of words and destruction, I opted to just walk away and never speak to them again. It's better for my peace of mind, and I have no problems isolating myself from those who bring out the worst in me. In some ways, the silence hurts them a lot more than anything else. And I admit I feel a tiny bit smug and a little petty knowing that.

A lone stray cat was crying out my window while I was dialing my Mom's place. Odd, I thought. Usually, there were a bunch of cats that hung out on my porch, waiting for the Old Bird next door to feed them. I didn't remember seeing the lone cat either while I was opening the door. Still, I could hear it crying while I was waiting for my mother to pick up the phone. Except, it wasn't my mother who answered. Rather, it was my youngest brother. I asked him where Mom was, and he said that she was sleeping; she had been ill, and she hadn't really eaten anything in the past few days. I was worried, and asked if she had been to the hospital. My brother said that my sister was getting ready to take her there.

I decided to call my sister; I hadn't spoken to her in a long time. But when she answered, I recognized the worry in her voice. Whatever problems we had between us were put aside for the sake of our mother. She said that she was going to take Mom to the hospital and see if they could get her well. She seemed to have a plan and I didn't want to get in her way. So I said that I would call again the next day to see what the doctors said. Then I called my brother on the east coast to relay what I had learned. It was still very early in the morning when I talked to my east coast brother. I thought that by the next day, I would have a better idea of what was going on with my mother.

So imagine my surprise when later that afternoon, I got a call from my east coast brother. He's voice was choked with emotions and I couldn't understand what he was saying. But I could feel this pervasive sense of anger and despair in his garbled, sobbing voice. I felt my heart grow heavy with dread. In the first few minutes that I struggled to calm him down and strained to understand his words, I thought of the worst: My mother had died.

But when he finally calmed down a little and made more sense, I realized that he was just angry. He told me that he called my mother's place about an hour ago, and they still haven't taken her to a hospital. He said he unleashed his rage and cursed at our sister for taking too long to take Mom to the hospital. I was upset. First, at my sister for taking so long to get Mom treated. Then I was also irritated with my brother for worrying me so. I attempted to alleviate his fears and anger. He was always the hothead and didn't think twice about getting physical when words failed. After getting him calm, or at least, in a lesser state of rage, I hung up and called Mom's. My younger brother picked up again. I asked him about Mom. He said that they had to call an ambulance because she would not wake up.

I had that growing sense of dread taking over my body. But I tried to remain calm and reasoned that the ambulance and hospital would see to my mother's care. I knew that my mother's condition was serious, but I couldn't panic over it unless I got more information. I thought about calling my east coast brother, but this news might just send him over the edge. I had to make a decision. I was in the middle of starting on a new venture. I would have to put that on hold and maybe make the long journey home. But after calling my sister, she assured me that though my mother's condition was serious, she was stable and that if anything changes, she would let me know. I still told her that I would follow up the next morning. She told me not to make any plans to come home just yet. Mom was strong, and she would likely get better.

That night, I had a dream. I was at a harbor, one that I recognized from growing up. It was the harbor that we went to board the ship to visit my mother's family, her original home. There was several people in the harbor, but I could not make out their faces, and I was only as tall as their knees. It was like I was a child again. I looked around for a familiar face, but the sun got in my eyes. So I looked towards the ship. There she was, my mother, getting on the ship. It was like when I was younger and we went to the harbor to see her off when she went to visit her sisters and brothers. Sometimes we got on the ship as a family; other times, my mother went on by herself. I started running towards her and called out to her, except I had no voice. But as fast as I ran, I was getting nowhere. That shipped seemed to keep its distance from me. But when my mother finally boarded the ship, she turned to me, smiled and waved, just like she did all those years ago while we bade her a good journey and safe return. Only, I had this gnawing uneasiness that she wouldn't come back this time.

And that's when I woke up. I knew what I had to do. I would go home and see my mother. It has been 9 long years since I last visited home. Circumstance and choice had kept me away. My last few years at home were painful experiences. And it wasn't that I didn't love mother or hated where I lived. We were blessed to have such a kind, caring, strong mother; my mother, however, was cursed with such burdensome, terrible children. I didn't like the situation I was in, and I had this wanderlust in me that I could not deny. I needed to get away, to see the world, to live...I needed to escape the turmoil and troubles that seemed to permeate the bonds of my family. I don't know why, but strife seems to blossom in my family, and I wanted to get away from that sense of oppression and suffocation that weighed heavily on me. I needed to get out on my own, and my mother knew this, and she encouraged me to go forth and never look back. Now, I had a compelling reason to return home. Whatever conflicting, agonizing emotions and angst I felt towards my family were overridden by my concern over my mother. She was always there to help me through some of my darkest hours, when life was a bitter, excruciating experience.

I haven't always been a good son; and I know that I've caused my mother pain over the years. But she has always been there for me, for all of us, always ready to forgive and come to our aid, always loving us, even with all our flaws. I've spent the majority of my adult life trying to be good son, trying to take care of her as best I could. But I know that I can never repay her for her kindness and love, no matter how hard or how long I try. The very least I could do right now is to be by her side, to be there for her as she has always been there for me.


  1. Eros , families are difficult things , we have all this sugar sweet tv and film pushed at us of happy family life where everyone gets on or deals with problems within a 50 minute time slot with all parties being interestingly difficult and morally noble as everything is resolved and forgiven. Real life never is like that and 90 percent of families don't really get on.
    So I wouldn't beat yourself up to much about that aspect of it , and I am sure your mother would have understood that . I have yet to go thru this as both my parents are still with us , but it won't be far in the futur and don't know how I will handle it when it comes . So thanks for sharing your experience

  2. Beast is being surprisingly erudite and sensitive!

    I haven't always been a good son; and I know that I've caused my mother pain over the years.

    Nor was I always a good daughter and I know that I caused my mother pain.

    It is the natural order of parent/child relationships.

    Don't ever beat yourself up for it.

    Sounds to me like she knew how much you loved her.

  3. Our families are very similar. I stayed away from my family for years. I was not in contact with my siblings when my mother became ill and so it was very hard for me to be so close to them while I was taking care of her for the weeks before here death. I took care of her and was by her side when she died but my siblings made it extremely difficult to be there. But 2 of them are closer to me now then they ever have been. There are ten of us and the other 8 were total asses the whole time, but of course I swallowed my pride and set our differences aside for my dear mother.

    I think that was an amazing dream. I nearly cried when I read it. I hope it helped you.

  4. Beast, You're so right about the tv/movie families. Every family has some issues, but I guess when it's your family, the problems just seem worse.

    I think that surviving my father's passing really made accepting my mother's passing easier. It's still sad and heartbreaking, but I'm also so glad that she isn't suffering anymore. You're so lucky to still have both parents. Cherish them. I wish I had one more chance to talk with mine.

    MJ, Thank you. I know my mother loved me, even if I was a pain in the neck sometimes :)

    I'm really grateful that she lived so long and that I had been able to talk with her like an adult. A long time ago, before I set out on my own, I settled things with her; I'm so lucky to have been able to say all those things I wanted to say to her and talk to her for as long as I did.

    CYFN, Thank you for sharing your experiences. I'm hoping that my mother's passing would've mended the rift between some of my siblings and I. Some I've reconnected with; others, I realize that I just may need to stay away from. But that's life. I'm still grateful that I'm very close to my nieces and nephews, even if I'm not close to their parents (my brothers or sisters).

    That dream was the calling I received to make the journey home. I'm glad I listened to it.

  5. I think that distance is the only answer in many relationships and to be honest blood means very little to me anymore, my blood relatives have treated me so badly and hurt me for so many years I truly believe it is for the best interest of me and my children to stay away from the majority of my family and I am unconcerned how this makes them feel for I am in not in control of their feelings and refuse to feel bad about protecting myself.

    It is good you still talk to their kids, I do not. That is the only hard part but sometimes you have no choice but to throw the baby out with the bath water.

  6. CYFN, You're so right about distance. I noticed that some of my siblings shouldn't be living next to each other--it makes competition and strife much easier to blossom.

    Cutting off contact with my hurtful siblings certainly has made my life much happier and less stressful. I've just accepted that they are not nice people, and I can't change them. I've always been close to my nieces and nephews though, but that's mostly because we are the same age! So, I'm a lot closer to them than to their parents, and I enjoyed seeing them again. They've seen just how terrible their parents are to each other, yet they've managed to be close to me and their cousins. That's a good thing, and I want to nurture and protect that good relationship for as long as I can.